John Speaker Art Interview

by Bill Kovski September 28, 2016 0 Comments

John Speaker Art Interview

Hey Jon, tell us a bit about you!
 I'm an untrained artist, grew up in Harrisburg, PA, and now live with my fiancee in Philadelphia, PA. I do currently have a job where I work from home. Working from home allows me to put a lot of time into creating artwork without stressing too much on how to pay the bills with art alone. My goal is to become a full-time artist as the path develops.
Where do you get your inspiration? 
 The inspiration to create art can come from anywhere and at any time.  It's nearly impossible to pin down the source of inspiration. The less I think I know where inspiration will come from, the more I can be open to any spark of inspiration as it arises. Conversations, hikes, books, podcasts, trips, spiritual questions, and so on have all directly inspired my art.


What are your favourite podcasts? I listen to Rogan and Trussell a lot. Also, McKenna lectures when I create art seem to do wonders!

JRE and DTFH are two of my favs! Psychedelic Salon, Your Mom's House, Hardcore History, Skeptic Tank, The Bone Zone...man, there are so many interesting and hilarious podcasts out there! 
Do you have a couple life changing books you can recommend?

'Be Here Now' by Ram Dass is an absolute favorite in our house...an essential that continually teaches in such a joyful way. Also, 'Food of the Gods' by Terence McKenna really had a profound effect on the way I perceived human history and culture.
Those are both incredible, life changing books!
A question many people want to know is why do you make art? 

Making art is a wonderful way to celebrate the mystery of existence. It's a vehicle that can be used to process our life experience (with all of it's joy and pain) into an object that inspires others to see the world in a creative way. I also enjoy writing, dancing, creating music, and creative experimentation in general...I try to go along with however the creative spirit decides to flow through me, and it seems the vast majority of that energy ends up being directed toward visual art.

Do you ever feel like when you are creating that you are just a conduit or vessel for something greater than you? 
Yes, for sure. My John-ness takes a backseat and it's as if something pours through the body and moves the brush.  It feels rather strange to say that "I" created my paintings.  Yes, my body did the work, but "I" wasn't home while it was happening.
Do you have any theories of what consciousness is or why it seems like it really wants to express itself?
I feel that everything is conscious to one degree or another. We are in an undulating sea of consciousness and our bodies are temporary waves of enormous potential. It's like this thing the we've decided to call "ego" is really good at pointing out each separate ripple and wave in the ocean, but fails to see that they are all part of one body of water! 
It's a strange game to play, to simultaneously be a functional human while fully acknowledging the one-ness of being.


What environment is most conducive to productive times? Non productive times? What do you think of the term muse? Care to elaborate? Are you spiritual or religious? Does this play into your art?
My most productive time usually starts at about 9-10am, alone in my home studio, after a couple cups of coffee and a shower. Productive spurts can happen at any place and any time, but I've made it a practice to sit down every morning and paint whether I "feel like it" or 
The concept of the muse is interesting. There are certainly periods of time when I feel inspired and excited to create art, almost as if being uplifted by an angelic force. Then, there are periods where that force seems to vanish; these periods can be permeated with feelings of loneliness and deep questioning, but serve as fuel for creative breakthroughs.
The human condition can be seen from a spiritual perspective, a physical perspective, a magical perspective, a political perspective, etc. They are like different lenses or vibrations that we tune into. I can't really claim to be one thing or another as I experience a constantly fluctuating blend of all perspectives.

What are some of the artists that you are inspired by? Why? 
It wasn't until I saw Alex Grey's paintings that I really understood the incredible power of art. His paintings awoke something in me that had been missing for a long time. From there, a doorway was opened to appreciate all kinds of styles of creative expression.
Randal Roberts and Morgan Mandala have also been a huge source of inspiration.  I took a workshop hosted by them last year and learned so much about techniques, art theory, and making a living as an artist.  I would definitely encourage aspiring artists to get in contact with artists that they look up to.
There are so many incredible visionary/psychedelic artists today; too many to name individually. I find constant inspiration from the increasing influx of art flowing through social streams or by going to an art museum and being humbled by the masters.

Alex Greys work spoke to me right away. It was the Lateralus album in 2001. Did you have a similar experience?
Tool and Alex Grey are definitely responsible for me wanting to explore the psychedelic and visionary side of life. 
A couple weeks after having my first psychedelic experience, I was on Facebook and I saw that one of my friends had 'Kissing' as his profile picture. I can't even put into words how that image impacted me...it was a cascade of something like, "Wow! Someone else has been there too?!" and "Wow! Art can be this badass?!". It was a turning point to say the least.
Did you have a certain artist or notable figure get you interested in psychedelic culture? 
Ram Dass and Terence McKenna have got to be the two biggest culprits.  They appear to be on opposite ends of the psychedelic spectrum...and that helped to create a balance where I can venture rather deep into the weirdness without getting too lost.
Those two guys are definitely my heros!
So what about techniques, programs used, inspirations?
 I mainly work with acrylic paints on wood panels or canvas.  I doodle in notebooks a lot, usually without a specific mission, but sometimes with a loose theme that I've become interested in. Among dozens of doodles there may be one that feels special for some reason...I'll use that doodle as inspiration and bring it to life over the next few weeks or months with paint.

If there was something you could change or improve on. What would that be? (in you or in others)
It's rather silly, but if I could change one thing, it would be to let go of the desire to change things. Existence is wonderful when I can let go into the moment and allow the cosmic dance to do it's thing. Peace washes over when I don't try to hold onto the good times or claw my way out of the dark times. It seems rather arrogant to think that I know how things should be rather than embrace them as they are!
Do you try to remove expectations while you work on a painting? Where you are not thinking about how much you could sell it for, if it will get a bunch of likes on facebook. 
I always feel that when I let go, and remove expectations, thats when I truly feel free, and just create or write for the sake of itself. 
Do you think some people can fall into that trap of letting their ego create the art?
I think it is good, in some sense, to have expectations for the art.  I do want to create well crafted art that is relevant. But, I don't want to get too attached to those expectations, because then the art just feels forced and disingenuous. There's a time to let go into Space-Out Art Land and there's a time to actively guide the journey with the ego. I certainly can't claim to have the game figured out, but everything feels a lot better when I can let myself bounce from one mode to another and just enjoy the process.

When you create a piece, do you already have an idea in your head that you're trying to convey in the piece at hand or do you just go with the flow? 
It's a little bit of both. With some paintings I will have intricate line work and colors that I plan to use -  with others I will simply have a vague idea. 
As a piece develops, I will go through periods of improvisation, then judgement and reflection, then improv, then judge, and on and on until the piece feels complete.
How do you know a piece is complete? When I created art some years ago, I had a shaman friend that would tell me to stop when he thought I should stop haha. He would just turn the page on me!

Haha, that works! Each piece ends a little differently. Sometimes I'll be pushing around barely wet brushes for a couple days, not effecting the way the painting looks at all, and realize "...uhh...oh, it's done!...". Other times, it'll just hit a point where I spontaneously receive the notion that it's done. Some pieces I'm not sure I'll ever get to the point of completion.
How do you deal with an art block?
Artist's block is an invitation to shed off an aspect of our identity.  It's an excellent opportunity to try something new and reassess our mission. It can really suck at the time, but I've learned to accept it as part of the process and always seem to learn something along the way.
The good thing also is if you aren’t feeling it visually, you can create something musically. It must feel great to have a bunch of creative outlets to turn to!

For sure! Different creative outlets can reveal some weird pathways you didn't know existed! 
Do you have any rituals you use to clear your head so you can actually sit down and have a solid session?
At a certain point, you just gotta grab that brush and go for it.  I do eat healthy, meditate daily, and workout consistently. All of these practices influence each other and help to foster a creative life.

Bill Kovski
Bill Kovski


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